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Kamehameha’s legacy looms large 200 years later

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    Kamehameha Day honors the king and the Hawaiian values that he and others have passed down to their descendants.

This year marks a milestone within our Hawaiian community. As we celebrate the life of King Kamehameha the Great this week, we reflect with pride and reverence on the 200th anniversary of his achievement to unify the Hawaiian Islands into one nation, under one governance.

His leadership and legacy continue to offer many lessons on the current challenges and opportunities that face our Hawaiian community.

Last Sunday, I was privileged to speak at the Kamehameha Day Lei Draping Ceremony honoring King Kamehameha in Washington, D.C. It is heartening to know that King Kamehameha is rightfully remembered and honored from Hawaii to our nation’s capital, and around the world. From his birth at Kokoiki to his death in Kona, King Kamehameha has undoubtedly made a lasting impact in Hawaii’s history. His successful efforts to unify Hawaii, culminating with the Battle of Nuuanu in 1795, and the peaceful transition he secured with Kauai’s king, Kaumualii, to finalize the unification of all of the Hawaiian Islands in 1810, are just a few of the details comprising the life of this great and inspirational leader who forever changed the destiny of Hawaii.

Coinciding with the bicentennial of King Kamehameha’s unification of the Hawaiian Kingdom, three of the largest traditional Ku images have been reunited in Hawaii for the first time in more than 150 years. Ku images originally stood at Ahuena Heiau in Kona. After his reunification efforts in 1810, King Kamehameha restored Ahuena Heiau and refurbished it with gods of healing and reconciliation, which these Ku images represent.

The Bishop Museum, the British Museum, and the Peabody Essex Museum have partnered to mount this new exhibition – "E Ku Ana Ka Paia: Unification, Responsibility and the Ku Images" – which opened on June 5 at Bishop Museum’s recently renovated Hawaiian Hall.

The unification of these Ku images provides an unprecedented opportunity for us as a community to renew our spiritual strength and to focus on our cultural identity and our community kuleana (responsibility).

In 2010, we anticipate passage of the long-sought Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, or NHGRA. Upon its passage, native Hawaiians will reorganize a native Hawaiian governing entity that will foster peace and advance Hawaiian self-determination. Seeing federal recognition coming to fruition has required extreme patience and perseverance over the past decade.

However, the challenging work begins after the bill passes out of Congress and is signed into law by President Barack Obama. The reorganization of our governing entity will require extraordinary resolve and patience, as well as inclusive and informed participation by native Hawaiians. It will also require hard work, commitment, unity of spirit and encouragement by all of the people of Hawaii.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs stands ready to assist our Hawaiian community, the federal government and the state of Hawaii with this reorganization process to ensure it is fair, democratic, inclusive of all native Hawaiians and transparent to the public.

This year, more than ever, our will and spiritual strength as native Hawaiians will be put to the test.

I believe firmly that our deliberations and decisions can – and will – be grounded in the Hawaiian values our ancestors, such as King Kamehameha, have passed on to us. In honoring our ancestors we lay the foundation for ensuring the well-being of future generations of both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike.

Let us work together with resolve and perseverance, in truth with compassion, humility and patience.

Let us mark this milestone year as a successful 21st century laying the foundation for peace, prosperity and the well-being of future generations.

‘A’ohe hope e ho’i mai ai. Imua.


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